Cnut: the great Dane

In 1016, after more than two centuries of Viking raids and expulsions, a Norseman was crowned king of all England. Eleanor Parker explains how Cnut succeeded where his forebears failed, securing his place on the throne and in history

A portrait of Cnut holding a sceptre. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the October 2016 issue of BBC History Magazine 

Only two kings in English history are known as ‘the Great’ – and one of them was Danish. When the young Viking Cnut seized the throne of England in 1016, few could have predicted that he would become one of the most successful kings of the early medieval period, ruling a Scandinavian empire that stretched across the North Sea world.

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